Five Steps to Managing Your Diabetes

Senior Couple in the kitchen

One in four of the 29 million Americans living with diabetes is age 65 and older.  Since there is an increased risk of complications that comes along with age, it is important that seniors learn how to manage their disease.

Diabetes is a serious disease in which the body does not produce enough insulin or cells do not respond appropriately to insulin. This disease causes increased levels of glucose in the blood. Complications of untreated diabetes can include heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage and blindness. While there is no cure for diabetes, it can be managed.

The majority of diabetic seniors have Type 2 diabetes. Most can manage their blood glucose levels with dietary changes and with exercise. People with Type 1 diabetes must manage their blood sugar with insulin that is administered with an injection, a pump or inhalation. Insulin helps the body utilize glucose for energy.

Here are five steps you can take to manage your diabetes:

1. Closely monitor your blood glucose level.

Talk with your doctor about the target range for your blood glucose levels. He or she will probably give you a chart to follow based upon your age, gender, and the time between meals. Checking your levels at the intervals recommended by your doctor will help you know how your treatment plan is working.

2. Follow a healthy diet.

Making changes in your diet will help you manage your diabetes and your risk of heart disease and other problems. Consume vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats and watch your portion sizes. In addition, it is a good idea to monitor your cholesterol level. High cholesterol levels can cause further complications and put you at the risk of developing heart disease or stroke.

3. Watch your blood pressure.

Nearly one out of three American adults have high blood pressure. Two out of three people with diabetes have high blood pressure. Your heart must work harder when your blood pressure is high, so your risk for heart disease increases. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that people with diabetes keep their blood pressure below 140/80.  Check with your doctor about what levels are best for you.

4. Get plenty of exercise.

Exercise can be an important factor in maintaining your proper blood glucose levels. Exercise also helps lower blood pressure and improves muscle strength, balance and flexibility. Many studies show that exercise —even as little as a 20-minute daily walk— also helps combat anxiety and depression.

Walking, swimming, dancing, bowling and working in your garden are ways you can stay physically active. Start out slowly if you have not exercised in a while. Before you start a new exercise program, check with your doctor, so that you don’t overdo it.

5. Stop smoking.

Smoking is bad for everyone’s health, but it can be especially dangerous for someone with diabetes. Diabetic patients who smoke have higher blood sugar levels, which make their disease more difficult to control and put them at greater danger of developing complications.

If you have diabetes, practice caution when drinking alcoholic beverages. The ADA recommends that you do not drink on an empty stomach or when your blood glucose is low. If you choose to drink, do so in moderation. Women should have no more than one drink per day, and men should have no more than two drinks per day, according to the ADA.

Managing your diabetes involves educating yourself and your family members and working closely with your health professional. By following these steps, however, you should be able to stay healthy and active.

What are the best foods for diabetes?

Consult with your doctor


• Whole-grain flours, such as whole wheat flour

• Whole grains, such as brown rice

• Cereals containing whole-grain ingredients and little added sugar

• Whole-grain bread

• Baked sweet or baked steak fries

• Whole-grain flour or corn tortillas

• Corn, popcorn or products made from corn


• Fresh vegetables, eaten raw or lightly steamed, roasted, or grilled

• Plain frozen vegetables, lightly steamed

• Low sodium or unsalted canned vegetables

• Lettuces, greens, kale, spinach, arugula


• Plain frozen fruit or fruit canned in fruit juice

• Fresh fruit

• Sugar-free or low-sugar jam or preserves

• No-sugar-added applesauce

• 100% fruit juice

• Use healthy fats

Here are some resources if you would like more information:

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